All posts tagged with history

Quote: Robert Broom has no apologies

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Robert Broom, in the first paragraph of his paper, “Further Evidence on the Structure of the South African Pleistocene Anthropoids”, says it better than I co...

McKenna and Bell on ranked categories

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I learned mammalian systematics and cladistics around the same time that Malcolm McKenna and Susan Bell published their 1997 book, Classification of Mammals:...

Black Tudors

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Last year Atlas Obscura published a review of the book Black Tudors, by Miranda Kaufmann: “The Africans Who Called Tudor England Home”.

Apes and monkeys in etymology

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In scientific English, today we often distinguish between “monkeys” and “apes” in a meaningful way. Apes are the tail-less primates of the Old World that are...

Australopithecus prometheus: is it real?

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Lee Berger and I have a new article out in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology that looks at what may be the biggest issue in hominin taxonomy for ...

Remembering King Leopold’s human zoo

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National Public Radio (U.S.) has a story about one of the evils of Belgian colonization of the Congo: King Leopold brought hundreds of Congolese to Belgium t...

Link: History of The Population Bomb

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Charles C. Mann has written a historical account of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb as a part of Smithsonian magazine’s retrospective on the year 1968: “T...

Link: A hookworm history in mining

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I’ve been doing a bit of reading about hookworm infection for an essay, and I happened across a piece by Rebecca Kreston from Discover’s “Body Horrors” a few...

Lessons of Piltdown doubters

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Darren Naish at Tetrapod Zoology has published a nice post about early doubters of the Piltdown fossils: “Piltdown Man and the Dualist Contention”.

Link: Legendary Bronze Age Chinese flood

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Annalee Newitz describes a study in Science that examines a semi-legendary flood at the dawn of Chinese civilization, which turns out to have been a real eve...

Link: The discovery of botulism

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I really like this blog post reviewing the discovery of botulinum toxin by Rebecca Kreston: “The Bad Sausage & The Discovery of Botulism”.

Link: New documentary on Brinkley

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A new Kickstarter-funded documentary is coming out about Dr. John Brinkley, the Kansas quack best known for his goat gland operations during the Roaring Twen...

Link: The mysterious end of Erebus and Terror

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A fascinating Sunday story by Leanne Shapton in the New York Times Magazine about the mysterious end of the 1845 Franklin expedition to the Arctic: “Artifact...

A retrospective on the Piltdown doubters

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Darren Naish has a very nice post about one aspect of the saga of Piltdown Man: the scientists who never believed that the jaw and calvaria of the specimen a...

What happened on Apollo 13

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Ars Technica has a long article in honor of the anniversary of the Apollo 13 by writer Lee Hutchinson, giving background to the famous accident that the movi...

Link: Nuts and civilizations

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California Sunday Magazine has a feature profiling farmers losing their water to nut growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley: “Dry”. It’s a story of wells...

Link: History of the word, ‘scientist’

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The Renaissance Mathematicus enlisted the historian Melinda Baldwin to write about the early history of the word, “scientist”, originally coined by William W...

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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In the New York Times, Alan Dershowitz reviews the book, The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind–and Changed the History of Free Speech...

History dissertations under wraps

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Via a reader, this article in the New York Times about the American Historical Association’s vote to recommend that newly-minted PhDs be allowed to hide thei...

Tracking the potato pathogen

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An increasing number of authors of scientific papers are writing good blog summaries of their work. The really great part is that the authors tend to give ba...

Paleo and "physical culture" movements

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NPR has a short piece with an interesting historical story about old-time back-to-nature fitness fanatics: “Paleo Diet Echoes Physical Culture Movement Of Ye...

Boning up on British history

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From The Guardian: “Richard III archaeologists to return to Leicester site in search of lost knight”.

Alfred, possibly not under a car park

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So after they found the bones of Richard III under a parking lot, now everybody is apparently going crazy to dig up bones under parking lots, churchyards, un...

Unexpected "Radium Age" stories

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I was enjoying a Nature discussion of “radium age” sci-fi literature, when this line caught me by surprise:

Melungeon genetic roots

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The AP is running a story about a recent genetic study probing the ancestry of the Melungeons.

Quote: David Thompson on the stars

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This is maybe as good a definition of science as one could hope for, from the journals of early Canadian fur trader David Thompson:

Brittannia rules the waves

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Ars Technica has an engrossing article by James Grimmelmann about the rise and fall of HavenCo. The firm promised data security and anonymity based on the id...

Computing past

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The Guardian has an interview with George Dyson about his new book, Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. The book reviews the early histo...

A story of methemoglobinemia

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A story by Susan Donaldson James of a unique genetic disorder and the social stigma of inbreeding in Appalachia: “Fugates of Kentucky: Skin Bluer than Lake L...

Alfred Crosby interviewed

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Last week I linked to an article about the dispersal of the potato (“How the Potato Changed the World”). Smithsonian also has an interview with Alfred Crosby...

Potato sack race

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Smithsonian magazine has a very nice article by Charles C. Mann, “How the Potato Changed the World”, focusing on the effects of the Columbian exchange on Eur...

Hollywood's war on Shakespeare

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The New York Times Magazine tries for a new record in academic killjoy columns: “Wouldnt It Be Cool if Shakespeare Wasnt Shakespeare?”

Charles Mann interview

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Razib Khan posts an interview with author Charles C. Mann, whose new book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created is an account of the social and eco...

Mummy trouble redux

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Speaking of Jo Marchant, she has a long article in the current Nature about the mummy DNA controversy (“Ancient DNA: Curse of the Pharoah’s DNA”).

Fogel profile

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The NY Times has a profile of economist Robert W. Fogel (“Technology Advances; Humankind Supersizes”). Fogel, along with other historical economists, has wor...

Darwin's Y

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The Telegraph has done a puff piece about the Genographic testing of Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson.

Ham the space chimp

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Remembering Ham, 50 years later: “The chimp that took America into space.”

Mummy troubles

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Mummies are always trouble. I hate to say it. You see, in my line of work we can do an awful lot with a skeleton. We’re usually down to a few pieces of bone,...

Dinosaur Wars

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Brian Switek reviews the American Experience program, Dinosaur Wars, which covered the scientific rivalry between paleontologists Othniel Marsh and Edward Dr...

A large mystery in historical genetics

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Gina Kolata writes an interesting story about the genetics of a pituitary giant (“New Story Writ by a Giant’s DNA”). The individual in question is a man know...

Landing your capsule

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Vintage Space is a blog written by a historian of spaceflight, which has lately been focusing on the development of landing systems in the Mercury, Gemini an...

Charlemagne the tall

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I found an interesting, short paper doing a bit of forensic investigation on Charlemagne Ruhli:Charlemagne:2010:

New data on Ashkenazi population history

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Bray and colleagues Bray:Ashkenazi:2010 report on genotyping of 471 people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. This is one of the largest samples of a single human ...

Samurai lead poisoning

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An interesting study has shown how people in the samurai class of Edo period Japan were poisoning their children with lead. The results are reported in a cur...

Gorillaz marching

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Eric Michael Johnson, formerly of Primate Diaries, writes:

The simple foods

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James McWilliams comments on the simple, local foods movement: “The Persistence of the Primitive Food Movement”. His theme, with several interesting historic...

Collapsing reviews

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Nature this week gave Jared Diamond the chance to review two books about archaeology and “collapse” – The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age (which...

Texas, the textbook gorilla

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The other New York Times Magazine article that I found interesting this weekend (following up on yesterday’s post) is about the Texas State Board of Educatio...

Clio by Turchin

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Razib’s “10 questions for Peter Turchin”, population dynamist and historical theoretician, is well worth reading.

Darwin's mitochondria

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I’m always skeptical when pathologists attempt to diagnose the ills of historical figures. Even if there are medical records or abundant attestations of symp...

Phenotypic variance

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I’ve intermittently been reading through William Provine’s The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics. It’s related to a project simmering on my back bur...

"Historians Gone Wild" on Oprahbulations

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I think that this NY Times story by Noam Cohen, titled “In Douglass Tribute, Slave Folklore and Fact Collide,” is just fascinating. It’s an old story (from e...

Little Ice Age

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New Scientist is running a nice article titled, “1709: The year that Europe froze.” It hits many interesting points – at the very dawn of systematic temperat...

Andrew Wyeth on his father's death

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I’m very sad about Andrew Wyeth’s death this week. He was one of the first artists I learned about in school, and I have always been inspired by his work.

Columbus, smallpox and global cooling

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Claims that the rapid depopulation of the Americas around 1500 AD, leading to abandonment of cleared lands and reforestation, may have intensified the Little...

Cliometrics from Cicero

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I happened to be reading about the scholastic revival of Cicero, in the book Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin by Nicholas Ostler. It’s a really interesting...

Billiard-ball genetics

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I picked up a copy of Julian Huxley’s Evolution: The Modern Synthesis this week at a book sale. It’s funny – the book was a review copy and bears the followi...

Original landscape of American East

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This New Scientist story is from January, but it’s interesting – streams and rivers across the eastern US were much more extensively terraformed by damming t...

Obsolete thinking discarded, life goes on

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In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Russell Jacoby bemoans progress (paywall). He thinks that colleges aren’t teaching people to revere the right nineteent...

Zimmer "flounders"

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Carl Zimmer puts in a nice entry on the new flounder evolution paper, covering the history of the question including the debate between Darwin and Mivart abo...

"Walden", evolution and climate change

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Elizabeth Pennisi, reporting from the Evolution meetings, has turned in an article about how biologists are using the 19th century plant records of Henry Dav...

Buckminster Fuller profile in New Yorker

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An interesting profile of Buckminster Fuller in the current New Yorker, by author Elizabeth Kolbert. The occasion is a retrospective exhibition at the Whitne...

Back to the Beagle

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I like the idea of book reviews for really old books. It eliminates the risk that you’ll get stuck writing a review of a really bad book, because, well, ever...

The appearance of the Origin

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Yesterday I ran across a piece by Tim Radford from earlier this year in the Guardian, titled, "The book that changed the world." It's a short article about ...

Backhoe history

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The sad part of this story is that nobody cares about the identity of the other guy:

Mechanisms of development and body size

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I'm just doing some background reading about the body size of pygmies (for both obvious and not-so-obvious reasons) and I thought it worth making a note of ...

The history of junk DNA explored

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T. Ryan Gregory (Genomicron) has been writing a long series of posts looking into the history of junk DNA. He's focusing on what research articles were sayi...

Hrvatski Origin of Species

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A letter to the editors of Nature by Jasmina Muzinic notes the new translation of Darwin's works into Croatian:

Darwin at 199

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This Saturday (2/8/2008) is Darwin Day here at UW. My lab will be putting a display together at the Geology Museum in the afternoon -- you can find a full s...

Blogging for Beagle

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The Beagle Project Blog lists me as one of the top ten senders of traffic to their site, which reports on the efforts to replicate the original voyage:

A two or a nine?

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I read this post by Grant McCracken some months ago, and I wanted to remind myself of it on September 1. So here it is:

Lucky Lindy's organ pumps

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What an interesting book review by Abigail Zuber, of a new book about Charles Lindbergh's medical collaboration with famous surgeon Alexis Carrel. Lindbergh...

Crosby on prior historians

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This is a nice passage by Alfred Crosby about the work of nineteenth and early twentieth century historians:

When did "paleoanthropology" get its name?

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A reader asked me this morning when the word "paleoanthropology" first came into use. I happen to be on an OED kick lately (for reasons that will soon becom...

Coincidence or homology?

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Remember that story from last month about how fruit flies have some kind of free will because they navigate their flight in nondeterministic directions?

Linnaeus and species fixism

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I think many biologists have a pretty vague picture of why Linnaeus was important. To some, he probably seems banal -- how exciting could it be to make all ...

"Botanical pornography"

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Not the work of Georgia O'Keefe, but of Carl Linnaeus according to this NY Times article observing the 300 years since his birth. The birthday was last week...

"Like confessing a murder"

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The Darwin Correspondence Project has put the text of 5000 Darwin letters online. The NY Times has a number of excerpts. Here's a good one:

Vaccinator in chief

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I was checking on the Thomas Jefferson mastodon story for the last post, and I came across an episode I hadn't been aware of. After Edward Jenner's developm...

Neurophilosophy psychologizes Dostoyevsky

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I really like this Neurophilosophy post on Dostoyevsky's epilepsy. It's a nice piece touching on history, literature, and psychology. Autobiographical detai...

Hunter-gatherer mortality

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Kim Hill and colleagues (2007) report in the current Journal of Human Evolution on the mortality profile of recent Hiwi hunter-gatherers. Here is their abst...

How modern is "modern tooth development"?

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Regular readers of the blog will remember previous occasions when I have written about dental development in fossil humans. I am by no means an expert on th...

Darwin myths exposed

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Jim Endersby presents a review of two recent books on Darwin -- a Variorum edition of the Origin, and a new edition of Darwin's correspondence -- in the Tim...

Audubon et al.

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A book excerpt in the Telegraph by David Attenborough asks this question:

Looking back to the golden age

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British physiologist Harry Rossiter suggests that ancient Greeks were more physically fit than modern endurance athletes:

Family size and lifespan

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After the post about education and lifespan, I noticed a different story about how large families reduce the lifespans of parents:

Pregnancy loss in wild baboons

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I ran across this new paper by Jacinta Beehner and colleagues, which has a very intensive sampling of pregnancy outcomes in Amboseli baboons:

A little game theory history

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I've been working through the book, Evolutionary Game Theory, by Jörgen Weibull, and it has a really concise two-page history of game theory (as applie...

Lion predation on elephants

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I'm reading a bit about risk in large animal hunting, and I ran across an article by Dereck Joubert on elephant hunting by lions in Botswana.

Drowning statistics

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I got curious about drowning as a global cause of death tonight, so I did some research and found a paper by Etienne Krug et al. (2000).

Genetics and lifespan

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The New York Times is carrying an article by Gina Kolata that discusses research on genetics and longevity. She has quotes from several big figures in the f...

Drinking milk can give you twins?

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Science Blog has a press release regarding the research of Gary Steinman on dietary influences on twinning. I'm going to cite a lenghty passage, because it'...

Columbus DNA informatics

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An article in the Washington Post by Guy Gugliotta discusses the identity of Christopher Columbus, on the 500th anniversary of his death.

Mandrill reproductive variance

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Joanna Setchell and colleagues (2005) present observations on the sexual competition and reproductive success in mandrills. For a quick primer on mandrill s...

Get ready, we're getting older

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The Scientist has a very nice article titled "The Longevity Dividend", about attempts to treat diseases of aging with preventative biotechnology. Some pe...

Gorillapause

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I missed this story back in December about menopause in captive gorillas:

King Kong humanzee trivia

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I'm coming late to this story, but it's still timely! The New York Times has an op-ed by Clive Wynne linking the inspiration for the original King Kong to S...

Diamond's Collapse in focus

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The folks at Savage Minds are still whuppin' away on Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, in posts About Yali, On cargo and cults - and Yali's question, D...

Prehistory of falciparum malaria

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Martin and colleagues (2005) have a PNAS paper examining the coevolution of falciparum malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) with early humans.

Venter's quest

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On the subject of Craig Venter, I ran across this old interview from Bio-IT World magazine. It's pretty useful for a short first-hand account of his side of...

Paging Randy Newman…

5 minute read

If "short people got no reason to live", then why exactly do they live longer than tall people?

Haeckel in history

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Just in time for school to start -- Slate is running a slide-show essay about Ernst Haeckel, including his life and work. It features some of his stunning a...

The depth of tuberculosis

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Via a reader: BBC is reporting that tuberculosis may have arisen in hominids as early as 3 million years ago.

Bringing Kurzweil's dream to earth

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I've seen a lot of attention to the new Ray Kurzweil book, Fanstastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, but only now have I seen a review by someone...

Weismann's mosaicism

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I've been reading Ron Amundson's new history of biology book, The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought.

"Ape to Man" to debut Sunday evening

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The History Channel is showing its new human evolution program, "Ape to Man" this Sunday, August 7, at 9:00 EDT / 8:00 CDT. The show has a website, which gi...

Genetics of the superfertile

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Reuters reports on a research study by Dr. Neri Laufer (Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem) into the genetic variation underlying fertility in older wo...

Aristotelian dental logic

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Every introductory class in biological anthropology talks about wisdom teeth, the common name for human third molars. Around ninety percent of my students i...

Overweight is best?

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The New York Times reports a new study in JAMA on the mortality risk associated with different BMI classes. The study found that obesity and underweight cla...